The Weasels

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The Weasels[1] are an American rock band based in Albany, New York and active since the mid-1980s. The group's core members are Doctor Fun (vocals, saxophones, keyboards, Onoyodel, lyrics and songwriting) and Roy Weasell (electric and acoustic guitars, vocals, keyboards, trombone, roto-vibe, mandolin, lyrics and songwriting). Chris Graf (keyboards, vocals, bass guitar, samples, E-flat horn, trumpet, musique concrete, gadgets, production and engineering) was also a co-founder and long-standing member of the group's creative nucleus.

The Weasels have released six albums since their inception and have played approximately 40 live shows. They have been compared in print most often to Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention and Steely Dan, based on their melodic jazz and blues based music, elaborate horn and vocal arrangements, deployment of highly regarded session players, open-ended and suspended compositional style, exacting recording standards, and intelligent use of sardonic, sarcastic, historic, political and scatological themes in their lyrics.

Early history[edit]

The group was founded when Fun responded to a newspaper advertisement placed by Graf and Weasell, who were attempting to find a keyboard and saxophone player for a planned live band. For the first few years of their existence, however, the founding Weasels remained firmly home-bound, writing and recording tracks that would later appear on the discs Meat the Weasels Volume I: Fondue Cabaret and GenerationXcrement.

In 1992, The Weasels submitted a tape to the then-annual Metroland[2] Ear Jam contest, and were selected as one of four finalists, despite the fact that no live version of the band existed. They quickly assembled and rehearsed a stage presentation of their material, and won generally positive audience and critical reviews for their performance, despite losing the contest to a defunct industrial metal band.

Meat the Weasels Volume 1: Fondue Cabaret[edit]

Inspired by the response to their Ear Jam performance, the expanded band polished their basement tapes and released Meat the Weasels: Volume 1, Fondue Cabaret in 1993. In addition to Fun, Weasell and Graf, this record featured Jon Cohen (bass guitar and slide whistle, sometimes billed as Jonny Weasel), Rocky Petrocelli (drums) and David Maynard (guitar). Maynard had once been a member of the New York Rubber Rock Band, whose 1975 single "Disco Lucy",[3] was named "Worst Single of the Year" by Billboard.

The Weasels continued to perform live in support of their early material, though with continued instability in the drummer’s seat, which was occupied at various times in their early years by Petrocelli, Jordan Cohen (later of Powerman 5000 and Blue Man Group), Dave King, Doug Klein, Dan Roberts, Steve Scoons, Dave Berger and Steve Candlen, with the latter two emerging as drummers of choice for their middle recording period. The album’s opening cut, “Let the Killing Begin,” is the first in a series of Weasels songs about notorious killers, in this case Henry Lee Lucas. It incorporates a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the soliloquy from the Doors’ “The End”.

Meat the Weasels Volume I: Fondue Cabaret included the following songs:

  1. “Let the Killing Begin”
  2. “Amway Man”
  3. “Red Meat”
  4. “Might As Well Try You” (Sometimes listed as “Might As Well Try Ewe”)
  5. “Plastic Plant”
  6. “Dancing On Your Grave”
  7. “Have A Nice Day”
  8. “Never Been to Jersey”
  9. “Maybe You’re Dead”
  10. “Put Your Finger in My Brain”
  11. “When the Fat Lady Sings”
  12. “Little Town Ashtray Disaster”

Leon’s Mystical Head[edit]

In 1995, the Weasels undertook their first formal studio experience at New Music Studios with production and engineering support from Ted Malia, who had also worked with R.E.M., Bobby Brown and many others. Maynard, Candlen and Jon Cohen returned to perform with Weasell, Fun and Graf on the New Music sessions.

These initial sessions were creatively fruitful, yet tense from an interpersonal standpoint. Cohen left the group in the aftermath and was replaced by Alan Okey for a subsequent session at New Music. Okey appears on two tracks from the resulting album, Leon’s Mystical Head (a title inspired by a Firesign Theatre sketch). “Catbox” Joe Dragone (saxophone) and Kevin Hendrick (trumpet) also guest on the record, which features prominent use of found sounds and samples, courtesy Graf. Live shows from this period often featured “Weasel Vision,” a multimedia visual presentation created and presented by artists Michael Oatman and John J.A. Jannone.

Leon’s Mystical Head featured “Paging Larry Storch,” the first installment of The Larry Trilogy, based on a Weasels theory that the purest essence of contemporary American comedy was to be found in the film and television work of Larry Fine, Larry Hovis and Larry Storch. The Notorious Killer Series continues with “A Fish,” which is about infamous cannibal Albert Fish. In July 2006, "Bar-B-Q Baby" was selected for broadcast on Doctor Demento's internationally syndicated radio show.

Following Leon’s Mystical Head, the band's core members decided that all subsequent Weasels albums would be recorded and engineered under their own direct supervision, with Graf taking a prominent creative role in the increasingly elaborate productions of Fun and Weasell’s compositions.

Leon’s Mystical Head included the following songs:

  1. “Leon’s Mystical Head”
  2. “A Fish”
  3. “Bulldoze the Moon”
  4. “Klaus Barbie and Ken”
  5. “Bang My Head”
  6. “Poor Blind Sheehan”
  7. “Bitch Is All Business”
  8. “Paging Larry Storch”
  9. “Bar-B-Q Baby”
  10. “Murder of Crow”
  11. “Ahab”
  12. “The Short Song” (a hidden track)

Uranus Or Bust[edit]

The next Weasels album, Uranus or Bust, was three years in the making. Behind striking cover art by Oatman, Fun (billed as Racer Fun), Weasell (billed as Chairman Wow) and Graf (now Sir Mixalot of Ice-T) offered 16 new compositions (one hidden) produced and engineered at Graf’s Big Saucy Sound Studio. Berger, Maynard and Okey returned to the band, and were joined by keyboardist Adrian Cohen, brother of Weasel emeriti Jordan and Jon, the latter of whom guests on Uranus, as do drummers Candlen, Petrocelli and Larry Levine, Amy Abdou (violin), Rena Graf (vocals), Mike Pauley (bass) and “some Russian friend of Candlen’s” (voices).

Two of Uranus’ songs were commissioned as part of multimedia art installations created by Oatman. “Hall of Pain” (about this album’s representative Notorious Killer, nineteenth-century Troy, New York’s Andress Hall) was composed as part of “Awful Disclosures: The Life and Confessions of Andress Hall,” while “Monument Road” appeared in conjunction with “Henry Perkins and the Eugenics Survey of Vermont.” Maynard composed the music for one song on the album, “Dumber Than Me,” while the Larry Trilogy continues with “Ou Est Monsieur Crane?”, which was also performed live by the Clown Punchers, a side project featuring Weasell and Mike Goudreau, VH1 staff writer for such programs as I Love the '80s and Before They Were Rock Stars. In May 2006, "Mr. Yamamoto" (a.k.a. "Jimmy's Talking Pants") was selected for broadcast on Doctor Demento's internationally syndicated radio show.

Uranus or Bust included the following songs:

  1. “Harvey Loped Along”
  2. “Something Wicked”
  3. “Onan Spilled His Seed”
  4. “Small Engine Repair”
  5. “MacNeice”
  6. “Alison Wonderbread”
  7. “Ou Est Monsieur Crane?”
  8. “Monument Road”
  9. “Lemons”
  10. “A Million Vacations”
  11. “Dumber Than Me”
  12. “Crogolin Grange”
  13. “Jimmy’s Talking Pants” (sometimes listed as “Mr. Yamamoto”)
  14. “Hale-Bopp (Recorded Live at the Village Gate, NYC, November 23, 1961)”
  15. “Hall of Pain”
  16. “Rachel” (a hidden track)

GenerationXcrement[edit]

Originally conceived as the bonus disc for a planned four-record box set retrospective, GenerationXcrement was released in 2000 and provided an assortment of alternate takes and unreleased tracks from the group’s first decade, including some of the earliest “basement tapes” from their pre-live incarnations. On October 28, 2000, the band played what is, to date, their last live show at Valentine’s Music Hall in Albany to support this disc’s release. Fun and Weasell were joined onstage by Jon Cohen (bass, who had returned to replace Okey after Uranus was completed), drummer Scott Appicelli and hired hands Steve Watson (keyboards) and Nathaniel Ward (guitar). Graf no longer performed onstage with the Weasels, but provided sound mix and supplements from the engineer’s booth.

GenerationXcrement featured performers from throughout the band’s history, including the following musicians not credited elsewhere in their recorded canon: Mike Sheehan (keyboards), Andy Manion (guitar) and Mary Panza (voice). The album included the following songs:

  1. "Man On the Moon”
  2. “Fluffy Wuffy Bunnies”
  3. “Billy Boy”
  4. “Let the Killing Begin”
  5. "Have A Nice Day”
  6. “Old Spot Old Stain”
  7. “Amway Man”
  8. “Gawdzilla”
  9. “A Fish”
  10. “Fat Lady Sings”
  11. “Part On the Square” (written for an art installation by Oatman, and sometimes listed as "Hard On the Square")
  12. “Generation Excrement”

Axis of Weasel[edit]

Like the Beatles after Revolver, XTC after English Settlement and Steely Dan after Pretzel Logic (but before their 1990s renaissance), the Weasels have existed as a studio-based creative entity alone since 2000. The first fruits of this era in the band’s history saw light in January 2006, when Axis of Weasel was released. Produced and engineered by Graf at Big Saucy Sound, the album’s 12 songs feature Fun, Weasell, Graf, Jon Cohen (bass and Chapman Stick), Adrian Cohen (keyboards), Appicelli (drums), and new guitarist Matt Pirog. Guests on the record include stalwart guitarist Maynard on lead and slide guitars, Rena Graf and Mike Pauley (backing vocals), Dud Hennessey (mouth harp), Nathaniel Ward (guitar) and J. Eric Smith (theremin).

Axis of Weasel was originally titled It Takes A Village to Raise a Village Idiot and is referenced as such in news articles and reviews from this period. The Larry Trilogy concludes here, a decade after it began, with closing track “Everything’s Fine.” Although it appears that no Infamous Killers explicitly appear on this record, the songs “Under a Cheddar Moon” and “Where Cheese Is King” continue a new Weasels' lyrical obsession: dairy and seafood products from Vermont, a story line that had been launched with “Rachel,” the hidden track from Uranus Or Bust. Album opener “Hey Joey Doyle” takes film masterpiece On the Waterfront as its launching point. An edit from “Dirtnap” was broadcast nationally in January 2006 as part of National Public Radio’s “A Word to the Wise” segment, dealing with coffins, caskets and undertakers.

Axis of Weasel includes the following tracks:

  1. "Hey Joey Doyle”
  2. “Where Cheese Is King”
  3. “Flergen, A Swede”
  4. “Suckling”
  5. “Transparent”
  6. “Whither Goest the Waitress”
  7. “1973”
  8. “Officer Gerbils”
  9. "Cosmic Rays”
  10. “Under A Cheddar Moon”
  11. “Dirtnap”
  12. “Everything’s Fine”

AARP Go The Weasels[edit]

In Spring 2006, a new Weasels song called "Little Big Man" was featured in "Model Citizens", an exhibition and series of documentary videos spanning four Northeast communities and featuring the work of over 25 model makers and curated as part of the Public Art/Moving Site Project; the show also involved longtime Weasels collaborator Michael Oatman. "Little Big Man" featured Fun, Graf, Weasell and Pirog from the Axis of Weasel band, joined by returning Leon/Uranus bassist Alan Okey and Al Kash, an internationally recognized veteran drummer whose first recordings were with Australian band, Blackfeather on their 1971 album At the Mountains of Madness. Kash also played drums in Florida for Tiger Tiger, a Miccosukee Indian band in the 1970s before returning to the Albany area to form regional '80s new wave legends Fear of Strangers (originally known as the Units), a band that also featured Aimee Mann collaborator Todd Nelson (guitar), with whom Kash later played in the Rumdummies.

Graf, Pirog and Okey left The Weasels after the completion of "Little Big Man," with Jon Cohen returning as bassist. In September 2010, The Weasels released a single and video, "Do The Teabag," featuring a new core line-up of Fun (Vocals, keyboards, saxophone), Weasell (guitar, vocals), Kash (drums) and Jon Cohen (bass). The full-length AARP Go The Weasels was released on February 14, 2013 (Valentine's Day), and included "Do The Teabag" in its 15 track playlist. Fun, Weasell, Jon Cohen and Cash are joined on the album by guitarists Chuck D’Aloia and Eric Finn, saxophone player Brian Patneaude, vocalist Sarah La Duke, keyboardists Adrian Cohen and Mike Kelley and percussionist Scott Appicelli, who also co-produced the album with Fun and Weasell.

AARP Go The Weasels includes the following tracks:

  1. "Father Weasel"
  2. "A Friend in Tweed"
  3. "1-800-MORON"
  4. "Zucchini Park"
  5. "Do The Teabag"
  6. "Driving Albert's Brain"
  7. "What Says Creep" (re-make of "Billy Boy" from Generation Xcrement)
  8. "Timmy's in Trouble"
  9. "Freemason Reese" (re-make of "Part on the Square" from Generation Xcrement)
  10. "Last Supper on Lark Street"
  11. "Invasion of the Body"
  12. "Trotsky in the Bronx"
  13. "Drink Your Tea"
  14. "Wailing Song"
  15. "Doubting Thomas"

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Weasels". The Weasels. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  2. ^ "Metroland — The Alternative Newsweekly of New York's Capital Region". Metroland.net. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  3. ^ "www.disco-funk.com". www.disco-funk.com. 2009-05-03. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 

External links[edit]